2020 just keeps getting weirder and weirder folks.
The Phillies were able to sweep a doubleheader for the first time since 2012, beating the Blue Jays 7-0 and 8-7. While a masterful pitching performance by Zack Elfin (7 IP SHO, 4 H, 9K) lead the team to the first game victory, game two was won by the offense, as the bullpen started and once again faltered.
No at bat was more talked about than when C Rafael Marchan stepped up with runners on second and third in the bottom of the fourth. In 846 ABs across three systems in the Minors, Marchan had not once gone deep in a game. He was always known as a guy with a gap to gap line drive swing, but with little to no power. Well, with the count 1-2 against Toronto RHP AJ Cole, who’s having a career year, Marchan changed that with a deep drive off a hanging breaking ball up in the zone.
And, to be honest, it was kind of a no doubter.
With the home run, the native of San Cristobal, Venezuela became youngest catcher in Phillies history (circa. 1883) to hit a round tripper. That’s an incredible feat for a player that hadn’t played above High-A before being recalled. I can venture to guess that the majority of fans had never heard of Marchan prior to his first start. While he will be heralded as a player that seemingly came out of nowhere, which is partially true from a power perspective, Marchan has been a Top-15 prospect for some time in the Phillies system and is quite possibly my favorite player in the entire Phillies minor leagues.
While the big signing made during the 2015-2016 International Free Agency period for the Phils was Jhailyn Ortiz with a $4.01M signing bonus, it was Marchan was talked about more highly among scouting circles. Many of those scouts expected the Phillies to sign him for much more than the $200K signing bonus his was given. A converted shortstop, Marchan was raw behind the plate, but his contact tool at the plate was quite advanced for a 15-year-old.
While he is still raw, he has come along way behind the plate. He earned rave reviews from the coaching staff during the first Spring Training, especially from his head coach, Joe Girardi, a former catcher himself. With his history in the middle infield, Marchan definitely has the arm to stick behind the plate and has shown an ability to throw runners out at every stop he’s been. The natural adjustment for anyone moving to the catching position is blocking and receiving, but Marchan has shown talent and an athleticism behind the plate that I think make his floor at least an average defender.
The bat, though, is something that could develop into something really special.
The old adage of ‘put the ball in play’ is something that has kind of been lost in today’s style of baseball. Marchan is a throwback in that sense, as he only struck out 79 times in those 846 minor league at bats. Striking out just over 9% of the time just doesn’t happen very often anymore. Plus, he is pairing the lack of strikeouts with an improving ability to get on base via the walk, a recipe for success. While he showed more of gap to gap power as I mentioned, it seemed that Marchan would be able to grow into some power once he matured. I think it is very logical to expect 10-15 home runs a season if all goes to plan. We’ve been blessed to have Realmuto behind the dish for these last two seasons, but 10-15 long balls is still great production from the catching position.
He’s only 21 years old, and his career trajectory could change, but Marchan has such a repeatable approach at the dish that makes it easier to find success. Also, I think his ‘issues’ will only be corrected by more and more experience, something he’s getting each and every day.
The switch hitter won’t be needed much more for the Phillies, with reports stating the JT should, in fact, be back for the Monday game against the Nationals. However, I think his demeanor behind the plate and clutch hits should have gotten Phillies fans super excited for the potential he has.
With Alec Bohm seriously making a charge for Rookie of the Year and Adam Haseley coming on strong with consistent ABs, it’s good to see young position players come up and perform. It’s been a while since we’ve had a stable of homegrown talent on the team at the same time.
And we all know what happened then.